ALFRED, N.Y. (February 24, 2019) – For the second straight day, and less than 24 hours following their semifinals triumph over Pine Manor, the SUNY Delhi men's basketball team overcame a double-digit deficit in the final ten minutes, beating host Alfred State to win the ACAA Championship on Sunday. And just like how they sunk the Gators on Saturday, Jordan Fragale knocked down the game-winning basket in the final seconds, this time with 2.7 ticks left, for a 77-75 victory, capping the Broncos' finest season under head coach Zack Thomsen with their first NCAA conference championship.
Sunday's title game also served as the rubber match for Delhi and Alfred State, as both claimed a home win in their regular season series. The Broncos took the first, 77-68, on Jan. 30, then the Pioneers won a 74-73 last-minute thriller on Feb. 9. Delhi entered the ACAA Tournament as the second seed, and overcame a 12-point, 67-55 deficit in the final six-and-a-half minutes to beat third-seed Pine Manor, 76-75, Saturday night. Prior to that game, fourth-seed Alfred State upset top-seed Thomas More, 68-64, in their semifinals matchup.
For his game-winning heroics in both contests, Fragale was indubitably named the ACAA Tournament MVP, scoring 27 points Sunday with five rebounds and eight assists. The junior point guard had 14 points with five rebounds, seven assists and five steals Saturday against Pine Manor, making the game-winner in that game with 8.2 seconds to play. Forward Payton Dean also landed on the conference All-Tournament team after making eight points with ten rebounds against the Pioneers in 20 minutes of action. He picked up his 11th double-double of the year in Saturday's semifinals versus the Gators after totaling 19 points with ten boards.
Delhi trailed Alfred State, 65-52, with 10:13 to play, and were forced to finish the game without Dean, who fouled out with just over 11 minutes left. In addition, a series of Broncos fouls put the Pioneers in the double bonus at the ten-minute mark in the second half. Delhi suddenly found itself in very similar scenario to their semifinals game the night before, and responded nearly identically. The Broncos began their comeback effort by scoring six straight points to get to within seven. Though Alfred State tried to prevent a late Delhi run with a free throw and 3-pointer to go up, 69-60, Thomsen's men responded furiously with seven straight points to get to within two at 69-67 with 5:17 to go. This was done thanks in part to a Saquan Goland dunk, a Jared Beach three, and a William Knight jumper.
The Broncos' momentum briefly stalled when a technical foul put the Pioneers on the line. Kevin Goode landed both his free throws, which was then followed by a Dante Jordan jumper on the ensuing possession. After a missed three by Beach, A-State got the ball back, and got themselves back to the charity stripe on another Delhi foul. Jordan made both his shots at the line to get the tournament hosts leading by eight at 75-67 with 3:35 remaining. It would be their final points of the game.
Fragale and Justin Daoud stirred Delhi's final rally by scoring the team's remaining points. Fragale hit a jump shot to get the Pioneers' lead back down to six. Then after an Alfred State turnover, Daoud converted on an and-one jumper to get the team back to within three at 75-72 with 2:29 left. The Pioneers again turned the ball over, which led to Fragale feeding Daoud for a layup to get to within one. Carlos Ithier then came up with a steal on A-State's next possession, in which Fragale was eventually fouled to shoot two at the line. He missed the first, but made the second to tie things up at 75-75 with 1:36 to play. The Pioneers were forced into a shot clock violation on their next scoring attempt, giving the Broncos the ball back with 1:02 remaining. Daoud missed a shot with 34 seconds left, which was rebounded by Ithier. Following a Delhi timeout, Fragale attempted a jumper with ten ticks left, which missed the mark, but fell into the hands of Goland. The ball quickly returned to Fragale, where he took an open lane along the baseline for the go-ahead layup with 2.7 seconds to play, leading to an Alfred State timeout.
Regrouping after the timeout, A-State's Jordan quickly fired an inbounds pass to Tahaij Lewis at half court to advance the ball and call another timeout with 1.8 to play. Goode then inbounded the ball to Jordan, whose turnaround 3-pointer at the buzzer just rimmed out, as Delhi hung on for the monumental victory.
Delhi finished the game shooting 46.3 percent (31-for-67) and 6-of-14 from behind the arc, compared to Alfred State making 36.9 percent (24-for-65) and 4-of-20, respectively. The Broncos were also able to overcome a major discrepancy from the free throw line, as the Pioneers made 23-of-28, while Delhi made just 9-of-17. Coach Thomsen's team used their strong second half to push them ahead in several other categories, including a 41-40 edge in rebounds that featured an 8-2 lead in offensive boards in the final half. The Broncos also took 11 Alfred State turnovers for a 16-8 lead in points off turnovers.
Daoud made a pair of threes for 13 points, while gathering six rebounds, as Ithier shot a perfect 3-for-3 from behind the arc for nine points with three rebounds and three steals. Beach accounted for seven points off the bench, making 3-of-4 from the floor. Goland and Mavenson Therneus each had five points with five rebounds, as Knight tallied three points.
Coach Thomsen's men completed their winningest season under the fourth-year head coach with a 17-10 record. It is Thomsen's best season at the helm in terms of winning percentage (63.0), with his ACAA champions matching the same win total as his first squad in 2015-16 that finished 17-13. The Broncos ended the year winning 12 of their final 14 games, as well as winning ten consecutive home games for a 10-1 record in Floyd L. Maines Arena. Delhi once stood at 5-8 at the halfway point of its season in late December.